When I first had my son, my mother loved to tell me how much of a challenge it would be. Especially when it came to getting him to eat right. “Just you wait until he refuses to eat his vegetables.” She would say. I would smile then, but as a new mom, I did wonder how I would get my son to make healthy choices.
I decided to do things a little differently and introduce him to fruit and vegetables as early as possible. When he turned three years old, he began to express his dislike in eating certain things even vegetables he once loved. So, I had to come up with new ways to spark his interest in making healthy choices for himself instead of just handing him fruit or putting a vegetable on his plate.
It’s important for kids to get all their vitamins and one of the best ways is through eating healthy. Vegetables help maintain their energy and strengthen their immune system. The high fiber content in fruit and veggies help maintain a healthy digestive system. They also promote healthy growth and development for your child and create good eating habits in the future.
Buy A Fruit Bowl
The most important thing you can do to encourage your child to enjoy fruit daily is to have a fruit bowl and keep it full with fresh appetizing looking fruit. Make sure it is placed where your child can see it, and they’ll be more likely to ask for it when they get hungry. I have a big bowl brimming with oranges and bananas on my kitchen counter Because these are his favorite fruit, and he’s aware we have them, he always asks for one at snack time.
Keep fruit and vegetables for snacking washed, cut and stored in the front of your refrigerator in handy snack-sized containers. Tell your child he is welcome to grab one whenever he’s hungry. Position them at eye level for your child for easy viewing, and when you open the refrigerator, your child will be more inclined to choose what he can see. Give a little praise when they choose a veggie as a snack, they’ll know they made a good choice and they will want to make the same choice in the future.
Oranges peeled and segmented are fast food! Sliced apples and celery sticks make easy snacks for grabby hands and pairs perfectly with peanut butter. Or keep carrot sticks handy for dipping in hummus. And let’s not forget the fun appeal of apple or fruit sauces. Canned and jarred organic fruit are also an option. Canned peaches, anyone?
It may be the last thing you want to do, but bring your children to the grocery store with you. Let them learn by your example, providing they see you purchasing healthy items, they’ll be more likely to do so when they grow up. Spend a lot of time in the produce selection teaching them about the variety of fruits and vegetables, how to tell the good ones from the bad ones. Explain terms like organic, non-GMO and traditionally grown produce.
Change It Up
Like everyone, children like variety. If you always place apples and oranges in your fruit bowl, switch it up! Buy with the season: peaches, pears, nectarines, plums. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or grapes. There are so many fruits to choose from, there’s simply no reason why you have to buy the same options week after week.
Same for vegetables. It’s easy to get in a rut and serve green beans, green peas and broccoli every week. But how about roasted honey carrots, sauteed Brussel sprouts with bacon or cheesy cauliflower? Get creative, your family will thank you. And if, for example, your child likes celery but doesn’t want it plain, let her have it with peanut butter and raisins. Sliced apples also pair great with peanut butter. Sliced and diced bananas are yummy with a healthy cereal and raisins can be used in oatmeal.
Make Your House A No Unhealthy Snack Zone
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to bypass the fruit and veggie argument is to simply refuse to buy junk food or processed snacks like cookies and potato chips. If they aren’t in your pantry, your kids can’t eat them, right? Teach your children the difference between processed and unprocessed foods. Define junk food and healthy food, and then make sure they understand the reasons why they shouldn’t eat it.
Help your children make healthy decisions by only purchasing healthy snacks. Remember, you’re essentially asking your children to choose between cheese puffs or carrot sticks – which do you think they’ll choose? Make it easy for your children and stock your kitchen with fruits and vegetables as their only alternatives for snacks.
Sometimes kids are picky and will love a vegetable one day and hate it the next. Many times, I’ll have to sneak them into my meals. My son loves spaghetti, so I’ll add sauteed grated carrots to the meat and use squash pasta instead of regular noodles. This cuts down on the starch and gives my son a healthy dose of vegetables. Try hiding small amounts of vegetables under the cheese of your pizza, for example. Or buy vegetable-enriched products. Many pastas, as an example, are supplemented with vegetables.
Turn Fruit Into Dessert
Kids love desserts, so why not keep it fruity? Fresh fruit in a bowl topped with a dollop of whipped cream is a fun treat. So is gelatin with fruit. And let’s not forget all the pies, cakes and cobblers you can make with fruit. Allow your child to see you preparing these dishes with fresh fruit, let him or her help out and snack on the fruit while you’re baking. They’ll love the dessert even more! My son also loves it when I make him homemade parfaits with blueberries, strawberries and granola. This is a treat that works well as healthy breakfast too.
With a little planning and preparation, you can easily turn your picky eaters into children who make healthy choices and enjoy eating fruit and vegetables.